by Tammy Pelletier
Percival Cove and Capitol Lake from the Thurston County court house.
Capitol Lake is changing. Earth movers are reshaping the shore, forming the first phase of Heritage Park the Arc of Statehood. When the arc phase is done , new wetlands will be in place and a large green space will welcome lake visitors. In the meantime, wildlife watchers can still enjoy sights from several parks along the shore.
In the 1950's, Capitol Lake was created by damming and dredging the Deschutes River estuary. The future of the lake is being discussed. Some want to let the lake go back to a natural estuary. Others want to keep the lake as a reflecting pond for the capitol dome. Read more about the Capitol Lake controversy at the Blacks Hills Audubon website.
From I-5, take exit 105 and follow signs to the Port of Olympia. Follow Plum Street. Take a left on Fifth street. Continue on Fifth to the north end of Capitol Lake. From south of Olympia, take I-5 to Exit 104 and turn onto Deschutes Parkway. Continue on Deschutes Parkway under I-5 to the south end of Capitol Lake. Follow Deschutes Parkway as it bends and passes a bridge and a restaurant. Look for signs to Tumwater Falls Park.
Bird Watching Notes
Tumwater Falls Park, on the Deschutes River near the brewery, is a fun place to observe birds. Take the trail on the west side of the upper falls (below the restaurant) and look for the American Dipper bobbing along the rocks. Watch a Common Merganser dive near Deschutes Falls and ride the currents down to Capitol Lake. Listen for the chattering of a Belted Kingfisher as it plummets to the water to catch a fish. Check trees and shrubs along the river for warblers and a range of migrant passerine.
Tumwater Historical Park, at the south end of the lake, provides an excellent view of the old brewery building, where first year Thayer's gulls can be seen in the winter. Geese and ducks also meander in the lake's south basin. Red-winged Blackbirds call from the cattails.
Further north, along Deschutes Parkway, Capitol Lake Interpretive Center has a floating dock for scanning the lake with binoculars. In the early spring and fall, Bonaparte's Gulls fly low over the lake, feeding before sunset. In fall and winter, waterbirds congregate nearby. Look for American Wigeon, Coot, and Bufflehead. The ponds often contain a variety of dabbling ducks including Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, and Gadwall.
Bonaparte's gulls at the mouth of Percival Creek.
From Marathon Park, just north beyond the railroad tracks, bird watchers can see Capitol Lake's middle basin, north basin, and Percival Cove. Dozens of cormorants sometimes swim in synchrony in Percival Cove. Look for other nearby birds including Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, Belted Kingfishers, and Wood Ducks. Where Percival Creek enters Percival Cove, a Great Blue Heron and a Black-crowned Night heron may be spotted. Near the lake, look up. A Bald Eagle or an Osprey may be overhead carrying fish. In the fall and winter, both lake basins are often dotted with Bufflehead, Barrow's Goldeneye, Common Loons, and American Coots.
(map & photo by Greg Pelletier)
Black Hills Audubon Society
Bird Watching in Washington
Tweeters Recent Bird Sightings
Send comments about our web site to Greg Pelletier:
Thanks to Bob Morse for getting this project started! Others who also contributed to this web site are:
Michael Clegg, Woody Franzen, Larry Goldstein, Jim Lynch, John Lynch, Sheila McCartan, Nikki McClure,
Tammy Pelletier, Brian Price, Scott Richardson, Bill Shelmerdine, Ruth Sullivan, Bill Ward, Cedar Wells,
and the City of Olympia Water Resources Program